Paris is an exciting place to visit, especially for the first time. Everyone has different ideas on how to invade the city. I was overwhelmed myself on my first visit there during my epic backpacking Europe trip. What I normally do in big cities is visit the top tourist sites first and then just be spontaneous the rest of my days. To help you wing it on your first days in Paris, here are 5 of the most-loved sightseeing locations in Paris:
The top landmark and symbol of Paris, the Eiffel Tower is incredible from a distance and even more so when standing underneath it or taking the tour. The tower has 3 levels of observation decks. Options of an elevator or a stairway lead to and from the first 2 levels. Only an elevator is provided to and from the top level, and lines waiting at that lift can be long.
Seen from any viewpoint and at any time of day, the Eiffel Tower is beautiful. Note that the splendour of the view of Paris at sunset from the second and third levels is unmatched from any other place in the city. If you are taking the city bus to visit the tower, be sure to know the time of the last bus stopping at the landmark.
Opens at 9:00 AM every day of the week except Tuesday, this grand museum houses numerous collections and around 400,000 items on show. Days are needed to see everything in this venue, but you can choose sections that are of particular interest to you if your time is limited. On my first visit at the Louvre, I was only able to see a few sections of it. You don’t have to see everything inside but if you’re a museum freak then better allocate around a week for the Louvre alone. All exhibit descriptions and signs are in French, but you can purchase an audio guide in your preferred language.
Travel tip: bring your student ID! Entrance to the museum is free for students and young people among others. Check out the full list here.
How could you go to Paris and not visit Montmarte? Montmarte has a special place in my heart because one of my favorite films, Amelie, was shot here. I even did a DIY Amelie tour on my own when I was back in Paris last September. What’s in Montmarte? For a start, there’s the Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmarte (pictured below) which is gorgeous and has a breathtaking view of Paris. You can also see Moulin Rouge here which I thought is overrated. There are also a lot of cool shops, cozy cafes and interesting nooks and crannies in Montmarte. I love it.
Notre Dame Cathedral
About the second most famous landmark in the city, the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral is a classic illustration of Gothic architecture. Built in the 1100s, this church is definitely worth a visit to see the interior, the architecture and the lovely stained glass art. Admission is free, but a fee is charged to climb the tower. An excellent time to visit is on Sunday morning during Mass when the gigantic organ is playing and the choir is singing.
Open daily from 10:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening, the Catacombs are underground tombs where around 6 million people were laid to rest. A vast historic system of tunnels, this maize of routes under the city are fascinating and sobering. Self-tours let visitors see as much as they want to explore. Wearing walking shoes and bringing along drinking water are important for meandering through the passages viewing the arrangements of skulls, bones and other intriguing sites.
You can get to Paris by train, plane or bus. Some travelers use the popular Eurail pass. A good tip for visiting the main and popular attractions in the city is to come early. When arriving at least a half an hour before opening times, you avoid an hour or more wait at the entrance later in the day. Another thing to remember is that holidays like Easter find the main sites of the city so crowded that even early comers must wait 2 or 3 hours.
Did I miss anything in this list? What are your top attractions in Paris?